For more than a year now, many NC State employees have been mainly working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, those employees will transition to mostly working in their offices again. To help you prepare to return to work on campus, below are some tips on making the transition from ComPsych, the vendor that manages the university’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.
Navigating Workplace Change
Many of us will be returning to a changed workplace, whether in the way we do work, the people we’re working with or even our attitude about working. Changes in the workplace can leave us feeling vulnerable, anxious and even angry.
Whenever life throws us off course, it presents an opportunity to pause, reassess and reflect on what we truly want to create. Then we can move forward feeling more on course.
One’s perspective about what’s happening is critical. With a job transition – or any type of change – including a troubled relationship or unplanned life adjustment, one voice within us states, “Why is this happening to me?” while another voice may ask, “What’s the lesson in this for me?” or “How do I use this experience to help me grow, and how might I take advantage of this chance for a fresh start?” While it is important to be realistic about all aspects of life transitions and to acknowledge feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and fear, your next move is a crucial choice. Do you want to remain stuck in pain and stress, or are you ready to focus your energy forward, looking at how best to learn from the experience? Change can be scary and may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Follow the steps below to get started. It is dangerous to oversimplify the complex nature of any life transition, so tailor these suggestions to your own
- Acknowledge your feelings. Let yourself feel what you feel, and find a way to release some of the emotion. Physical activity, writing down your thoughts or talking with others can help let this energy out and prevent the distraction of negative thoughts and self-defeating behaviors.
- Reflect and refocus. Take stock of what you still have, and make statements expressing gratitude, such as “I still have my ability to think, my special talents and my aspirations. I’m grateful for relationships and for my family.” Take a walk, a bike ride or a longer hot shower than usual, and ask yourself some powerful questions, such as “How do I want to feel three months from now? What will it take to get there? What does my ideal week look like? What could I do to realize that? Who could help with that?”
- Choose. Entertain the notion that everything is a choice. Decide what you want to choose as the next chapter of your life. Simply choosing doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it, however. The power of your intentions makes a huge difference. Feeling like you have a choice is certainly better than feeling like you have no influence, so why not adopt this philosophy? The choice of what matters most and what you’ll honor as authentic priorities is absolutely up to you. It is about being resilient and truly empowered to choose your life’s course rather than being a victim of circumstance and replaying old thought patterns.
- Get into action. Start by visualizing how you want to feel or where you want to be, perhaps three months from now. Work backward from this goal until you find something small enough that you can do the next day or the next week. Picking first steps and finding the right people for encouragement and support will help you realize your goal.
- Utilize the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. Did you know that your Faculty and Staff Assistance Program is a free, confidential service for you and your household family members that can take on your to-do list and provide you with the amount of time necessary to manage the changes around you? Examples of services provided by FASAP include:
- Personalized concierge resources including child-, elder- and pet-care solutions, transportation and local errand resources, low-cost home repair and utility assistance, etc.
- Telephone appointments with FASAP attorneys and financial planners to assist with personal legal matters and financial issues that may have arisen during your time away from the workplace.
- Confidential guidance from a local counselor to provide stress management assistance during the time of transition.
Preparing Your Children for Your Return to Work
Children may experience a variety of emotions when a parent is preparing to return to work, especially if you have been at home together for almost every moment of the past few months. Most of these feelings are due to change — something that children do not always welcome with open arms. Stability makes children feel safer, and with any major change, this stability is no longer certain. Use the following tips to ease the transition:
- Communicate with your children well in advance. This may help to alleviate any fears and may prevent your children from thinking up stories that could be worse than the actual scenario. Being honest and open may help prevent further anxieties.
- Spend time alone with each child. Tell your child how much he or she is loved, offer hugs, make playtime a priority and aim to create a deeper emotional bond between yourself and each of your children.
- Discuss your work. If your children are old enough to understand, share your pride in your work and its importance to the family.
- Encourage the sharing of emotions. Your children may not want to let you know they are scared, upset or angry with you for leaving. If this is the case, bring up the topic by mentioning your feelings. This can lead to a discussion where children and parents can share their feelings.
- Involve your children in preparing for your return to work. Let your children help you pack your work bag or briefcase and explain why you are packing certain items.
- Talk about how you will communicate. Keeping in touch is extremely important for the first few weeks of your new routine. Think of fun and interesting ways to communicate, including email, instant messages and video calls. This helps your child feel special and loved.
Getting Back Into the Habit of Success
Some basic habits are shared by everyone who achieves success on the job. As we get back into the swing of the workplace, it’s probably not a bad idea to keep these habits in mind:
- List your to-dos for the week, and prioritize them. Keep in mind that prioritizing your tasks takes a lot of mental effort. Try planning when your brain is freshest. For some people, this may mean first thing in the morning; others may prefer to wait until later in the day.
- Organize tasks by importance and how long you think you will need to complete each task. Make sure to coordinate your schedule.
- Establish a routine for daily tasks. A routine can help make you more efficient. For example, if you need extra time to get focused in the morning, answer routine emails when you get in. This will give you time to settle in and prepare to take on bigger tasks that require more focus.
- Schedule similar tasks back to back. Try making all your phone calls one after another or writing and sending emails all at one time.
- Take breaks. Complex tasks, like writing or strategizing, take a lot of brain work. It is critical to give your brain a chance to relax. Take a short walk or socialize with a co-worker. When you get back to work, it will likely be easier to focus.
- Don’t multitask. When you do, you divide your attention between two activities. It is easier to forget things because your focus is split. Focus on one item at a time to ensure that you catch any mistakes and do not have to redo the task.
- Go slow; it will actually save you time in the long run. Instead of rushing a response to a critical email, take the time to write a thoughtful and thorough reply. This will help prevent confusion. When writing a report, work slowly and talk with others about your conclusions. Doing so will help you better understand your findings.
- Organize your day around your body’s energy levels. Tackle your most important work when you have the most energy and save low-intensity tasks for periods when your energy is low.
- Take care of your health. It’s hard to be productive and successful when you’re tired or battling a health condition, or your body is craving nutrients you’re not giving it due to a poor diet.